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Microvasc Res. 2012 Mar;83(2):146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2011.12.003. Epub 2012 Jan 2.

A method for quantitative characterization of growth in the 3-D structure of rat pulmonary arteries.

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Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Understanding mechanisms causing pulmonary vascular disease (PVD) frequently requires a thorough understanding of the underlying structural changes in the pulmonary circulation. Animal models have been used extensively to study different forms of PVD but conventional experimental techniques are limited in their ability to allow the study of the whole pulmonary vasculature at once. In this study, we introduce novel techniques of arterial casting, high-resolution imaging and tree analysis to study the pulmonary circulation in rodent models. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were used at 20, 36, 52, 100 and 160 days of age. A technique involving arterial casting with Microfil silicone polymer, high-resolution micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) at 12.5 μm resolution and image data analysis involving segmentation and skeletonization was developed to both qualitatively and quantitatively describe the changes in the pulmonary vasculature with increasing age. Parameters identified to affect the quality of pulmonary arterial casting included polymer flow rate, total injected volume, polymer viscosity and polymerization time. By optimizing these parameters, we successfully created arterial casts of the pulmonary circulation in rats of different ages and demonstrated the feasibility of quantitatively characterizing the changes in the number of vessels with postnatal growth. These preliminary data suggest that the number of vessels with lumen diameters of 50-200 μm increases rapidly in both lungs between 52 and 100 days of age. With this new technique, the pulmonary vasculature can now be studied in a whole lung animal model to better understand the global effects of disease on vascular structure.

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